John Kirwan has started sending his players to brutal sparring sessions with giants of the sumo world in a bid to toughen up his side. The former New Zealand great, whose team emerged from last year's rugby World Cup with credit, watched from a safe distance as his players took a pounding from the roly-poly wrestlers. "There's techniques you can use in the scrum," Kirwan told Japanese media on Thursday. "The speed at the face-off can help with the hit in the scrum." His players were not quite so enthusiastic about taking such a battering. "It's a totally different ball game," winced Japan lock Hitoshi Ono, sporting the traditional buttock-bearing "mawashi" loin cloth worn by sumo wrestlers. "These boys are huge!"
I wonder if Kirwan had any relatives fight at Guadalcanal? Either way, his total disregard for his athletes' safety is inspiring. This reminds me of when coach made us play 'Bull in the Ring' at football practice. Every player was given a number, made to stand in a circle with a radius of 20 yards, and an unlucky player had to stand in the middle of the circle. Coach would then call out numbers in rapid succession and those players had to run and hit the 'Bull' as hard as they could. It didn't matter if the poor sap was facing you either. It became more confusing as the season went on because everybody had so many concussions, they couldn't remember their numbers. Good times. -KD